Accessible Emergency Information
Washington, D.C. 20554
` September 16, 2013
Small Entity Compliance Guide
Accessible Emergency Information, and Apparatus Requirements for Emergency
Information and Video Description: Implementation of the Twenty-First Century
Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010
Video Description: Implementation of the Twenty-First Century Communications and
Video Accessibility Act of 2010MB Docket Nos. 12-107, 11-43; FCC 13-45
This Guide is prepared in accordance with the requirements of Section 212 of the
Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996. It is intended to
help small entities--small businesses, small organizations (non-profits), and
small governmental jurisdictions--comply with the new rules adopted in the
above-referenced FCC rulemaking docket(s). This Guide is not intended to
replace the rules and, therefore, final authority rests solely with the rules.
Although we have attempted to cover all parts of the rules that might be
especially important to small entities, the coverage may not be exhaustive. This
Guide may, perhaps, not apply in a particular situation based upon the
circumstances, and the FCC retains the discretion to adopt approaches on a case-
by-case basis that may differ from this Guide, where appropriate. Any decisions
regarding a particular small entity will be based on the statute and regulations.
In any civil or administrative action against a small entity for a violation of
rules, the content of the Small Entity Compliance Guide may be considered as
evidence of the reasonableness or appropriateness of proposed fines, penalties or
damages. Interested parties are free to file comments regarding this Guide and
the appropriateness of its application to a particular situation; the FCC will
consider whether the recommendations or interpretations in the Guide are
appropriate in that situation. The FCC may decide to revise this Guide without
public notice to reflect changes in the FCC's approach to implementing a rule,
or to clarify or update the text of the Guide. Direct your comments and
recommendations, or calls for further assistance, to the FCC's Consumer
TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322)
OBJECTIVES OF THE PROCEEDINGIn the Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in MB Docket Nos. 12-
107, 11-43, the Commission sought to fulfill its responsibilities under Sections 202 and 203 of
the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 ("CVAA") by:
Adopting rules requiring the providers and distributors of video programming to make
emergency information accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired; and
Adopting rules requiring apparatus designed to receive, play back, or record video
programming transmitted simultaneously with sound to make available video description and
accessible emergency information.
The rules adopted will better enable individuals who are blind or visually impaired to access
televised emergency information and video description services, as Congress intended.
Background Information: Definitions
the protection of life, health, safety, and property, i.e., critical details regarding the
emergency and how to respond to the emergency. 47 C.F.R. 79.2(a)(2).
o Examples of emergencies: tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, tidal waves, earthquakes,
icing conditions, heavy snows, widespread fires, discharge of toxic gases, widespread
power failures, industrial explosions, civil disorders, school closings and changes in
school bus schedules resulting from such conditions, and warnings and watches of
impending changes in weather.
o Examples of critical details: specific details about areas that will be affected by the
emergency, evacuation orders, areas to be evacuated, evacuation routes, approved
shelters or the way to take shelter in one's home, instructions on how to secure
personal property, road closures, and how to obtain relief assistance.
A secondary audio stream is an audio channel, other than the main program audio channel,
that is typically used for foreign language audio and video description.
Video description is the insertion of audio narrated descriptions of a television program's key
visual elements into natural pauses between the program's dialogue. 47 C.F.R. 79.3(a)(3).
Video programming is programming provided by, or generally considered comparable to
programming provided by, a television broadcast station, but not including consumer-
generated media. 47 C.F.R. 79.1(a)(1), 79.2(a)(1), 79.3(a)(4).
A video programming distributor (VPD) is any television broadcast station licensed by the
Commission, any multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD), and any other
distributor of video programming for residential reception that delivers such programming
directly to the home and is subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission. 47 C.F.R.
79.1(a)(2), 79.2(a)(1), 79.3(a)(5).
A video programming provider (VPP) is any VPD and any other entity that provides video
programming that is intended for distribution to residential households including, but not
limited to broadcast or nonbroadcast television network and the owners of such
programming. A VPP includes a program owner. 47 C.F.R. 79.1(a)(3), 79.2(a)(1),
Obligations of Video Programming Distributors and Providers Under Section 202 ofthe CVAA
General requirement: Section 202 of the CVAA required the Commission to adopt rules
requiring the providers, distributors, and owners of video programming to convey emergency
information in a manner accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. 47
Rules for emergency information provided during video programming
o Emergency information provided visually during newscast programming (47 C.F.R.
Must be described aurally in the main program audio, as previously required.
o Emergency information provided visually during non-newscast programming (47
Must be provided aurally on a secondary audio stream; and
Must be preceded by an aural tone on both the main program audio and on the
secondary audio stream.
Requirements for emergency information provided aurally on a secondary audio stream
o Emergency information provided aurally on a secondary audio stream must be
conveyed in full at least twice. 47 C.F.R. 79.2(b)(2)(ii).
o Covered entities are permitted, but not required, to use text-to-speech (TTS)
technologies to provide emergency information aurally on a secondary audio stream.
TTS technologies automatically generate an audio version of a textual message.
Emergency information provided through TTS:
Must be intelligible; and
Must use the correct pronunciation of relevant information to allow consumers
to learn about and respond to the emergency (e.g., names of shelters, school
districts, streets, districts, and proper names). 47 C.F.R. 79.2(b)(2)(ii).
o Aural emergency information does not need to be a verbatim translation of the text,
but it must accurately and effectively communicate the critical details about the
emergency and how to respond to it to individuals who are blind or visually impaired.
This standard applies to both textual emergency information and visual but
non-textual emergency information (e.g., maps or other graphic displays).
o Aural emergency information must supersede all other content provided on a
secondary audio stream, including video description, foreign language translation, or
duplication of the main program audio. 47 C.F.R. 79.2(b)(5).
o With regard to information on school closings and school bus schedule changes related to
emergencies, covered entities may provide this information aurally on the secondary
audio stream at the conclusion of any video-described programming. If they do so, they
must air a brief audio message on the secondary audio stream at the start of the crawl
containing visual school closing/bus schedule information indicating that they will be
providing this information at the conclusion of video-described programming.
We leave it to the good faith judgment of covered entities to decide whether
school closings and school bus schedule changes result from a situation that is
a current emergency.
o Covered entities are encouraged to assist consumers with accessing emergency
information on a secondary audio stream by providing a point of contact, as well as other
information about how to seek assistance, on their websites and in other informational
materials distributed to the public.
Obligations of video programming distributors (VPDs) and video programming providers
o The VPD or VPP that creates the visual emergency information content and adds it to
the programming must provide an aural representation of the information on a
secondary audio stream, accompanied by an aural tone. 47 C.F.R. 79.2(b)(2)(ii).
o VPDs must ensure that the aural representation of the emergency information
(including the accompanying aural tone) gets passed through to consumers. 47
o Both VPDs and VPPs are responsible for ensuring that emergency information
supersedes any other programming on a secondary audio channel, with each
responsible only for its own acts or omissions. 47 C.F.R. 79.2(b)(5).
o Covered entities must provide an aural presentation of visual emergency information
on a secondary audio stream by May 26, 2015. 47 C.F.R. 79.2(b)(2)(ii).
o DBS providers with inadequate spot beam capacity in local markets can file a request
Procedures for Complaints Alleging Violation of Emergency Information Rules
reasonable means, such as the Commission's online informal complaint filing system, letter,
facsimile transmission, telephone (voice/TRS/TTY), Internet e-mail, audio-cassette
recording, and Braille, or some other method that would best accommodate the
complainant's disability. 47 C.F.R. 79.2(c).
The complaint should include:
o the name of the VPD or the VPP against whom the complaint is alleged;
o the date and time of the omission of emergency information; and
o the type of emergency.
The Commission will notify the VPD or the VPP of the complaint, and the VPD or the VPP
must reply to the complaint within 30 days. 47 C.F.R. 79.2(c)
Devices Covered by Apparatus Rules, Exemptions, and Exceptions
broadcasters and MVPDs must comply with the emergency information and video
description apparatus requirements. 47 C.F.R. 79.105, 79.106.
o Devices are considered "designed to" receive, play back, or record video
programming if they are capable of receiving, playing back, or recording video
o This includes devices with screens of any size, as well as those devices that do not
have a screen at all, such as set-top boxes, game consoles, or personal computers.
Covered devices include traditional televisions receivers (including those that use a
screen less than 13 inches in size), DVD and Blu-ray players, devices capable of
recording video programming, and mobile digital television (mobile DTV) devices.
o This does not include mobile devices that do not have receivers used to access
television broadcast or MVPD services.
The following categories of devices are exempted from the apparatus rules (47 C.F.R.
o display-only monitors with no playback capability; and
o professional and commercial equipment not generally used by the public.
Where manufacturers believe that it is inappropriate or impossible for their devices to
comply with the emergency information and video description apparatus requirements, they
may make use of one or more of the following exceptions:
o Receive and playback devices, but not recording devices, are not required to comply
with the apparatus requirements if it is not technically feasible to do so. 47 C.F.R.
79.105(a). For it not to be technically feasible, it must be more than merely
"difficult" to comply. In other words, it must not be physically or technically
possible to change the design of the device in order to include the required
o Receive and playback devices with screens less than 13 inches in size and recording
devices need only comply with the apparatus requirements if doing so is achievable.
47 C.F.R. 79.105(b)(3); 79.106(a). Achievability is defined as "with reasonable
effort or expense," and consists of a four factor test. Manufacturers may show, for
the specific device, that it is not achievable to comply with the apparatus
requirements as a result of:
the nature and cost of the steps needed to meet the apparatus requirements;
the technical and economic impact on the operations of the manufacturer or
the type of operations of the manufacturer or provider; and
the extent to which the service provider or manufacturer offers other
accessible devices at differing price points.
o Receive and playback devices, but not recording devices, may request a purpose-
based waiver of the apparatus rules (47 C.F.R. 79.105(b)(4)), stating that while their
device is capable of receiving video programming, either:
The device is a single-purpose device primarily designed for a purpose other
than receiving or playing back video programming, and access to video
programming on the device is merely incidental; or
The device is a multi-purpose device, but receiving or playing back video
programming is not one of the uses which comprise the device's "essential
o Manufacturers are not required to petition the Commission for a determination that it
is not technically feasible or achievable to comply with the apparatus requirements
before manufacturing or importing their devices, though they may do so, but are
permitted to assert a "lack of technical feasibility" or a "lack of achievability" as a
defense to a complaint. However, manufacturers seeking a waiver under one of the
two purpose-based waiver provisions must do so prior to the sale of their devices, as
the purpose-based waivers are not available as defenses to a complaint without having
first obtained a waiver from the Commission.
Obligations of Covered Devices Under Section 203 of the CVAA
requiring certain devices on which consumers receive, play back, or record video
programming to make available accessible emergency information and video description
services. 47 U.S.C. 303(u)(1), 303(z)(1).
Receive and playback devices are required to decode and make available secondary audio
streams, because such streams are currently used to provide video description services and
will now be used to make emergency information accessible. 47 C.F.R. 79.105(a).
Recording devices must enable the presentation or the pass-through of secondary audio
streams. 47 C.F.R. 79.106(b). This means that recording devices must store the secondary
audio stream along with the recorded video, such that a consumer may switch between the
main program audio and the secondary audio stream when viewing recorded video
Covered devices are permitted, but not required, to contain TTS capability.
Covered entities are encouraged to assist consumers with accessing video description and
emergency information on a secondary audio stream by providing a point of contact, as well
as other information about how to seek assistance, on their websites and in other
informational materials distributed to the public.
Compliance deadline: The deadline for manufacturers to comply with our rules for the
devices they manufacture is May 26, 2015. 47 C.F.R. 79.105(a), 79.106(a). The deadline
applies only to the date of manufacture (i.e., there is no restriction on importing, shipping, or
sale of devices manufactured before the deadline). Note 2 to 47 C.F.R. 79.105(a); Note 2
to 47 C.F.R. 79.106(a).
Alternate means of compliance
o An entity may meet the emergency information and video description apparatus
requirements of the CVAA through alternate means than those prescribed by
o Should an entity seek to use an "alternate means" to comply, it may request a
Commission determination that the proposed alternate means satisfies the statutory
Procedures for Complaints Alleging Violation of Apparatus Rules
transmitted to the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau by any reasonable means,
such as the Commission's online informal complaint filing system, letter in writing or
Braille, facsimile transmission, telephone (voice/TRS/TTY), e-mail, or some other method
that would best accommodate the complainant's disability. If a complainant calls the
Commission for assistance in preparing a complaint, Commission staff will document the
complaint in writing for the consumer.
Complaints alleging a violation of the apparatus rules should include:
o the name, postal address, and other contact information, such as telephone number or
email address, of the complainant;
o the name and contact information, such as postal address, of the apparatus
manufacturer or provider;
o information sufficient to identify the software or device used to view or to attempt to
view video programming with video description or emergency information;
o the date or dates on which the complainant purchased, acquired, or used, or tried to
purchase, acquire, or use the apparatus to view video programming with video
description or emergency information;
o a statement of facts sufficient to show that the manufacturer or provider has violated
or is violating the Commission's rules;
o the specific relief or satisfaction sought by the complainant; and
o the complainant's preferred format or method of response to the complaint.
The Commission will forward complaints, as appropriate, to the named manufacturer or
provider for its response, as well as to any other entity that Commission staff determines may
The Commission may request additional information from any relevant parties when, in the
estimation of Commission staff, such information is needed to investigate the complaint or to
adjudicate potential violations of Commission rules.
For VPDs and VPPs.As detailed above, the Report and Order adopts certain rules that
would require VPDs and/or VPPs to make a filing and, thus, to make and keep records of the
filing. Specifically, the Report and Order provides that parties may petition for waiver of the
emergency information requirements for good cause pursuant to Section 1.3 of the
Commission's rules. DBS operators may petition for a waiver of the emergency information
requirements pursuant to Section 1.3 of the Commission's rules if they have insufficient spot
beam capacity. The Report and Order also adopts procedures for complaints alleging a
violation of the emergency information rules.
For Manufacturers of Devices.As detailed above, the Report and Order adopts certain
rules that would require manufacturers of devices to make a filing and, thus, to make and
keep records of the filing. Specifically, the Report and Order permits parties to raise
achievability or technical infeasibility as a defense to a complaint or, alternatively, to file a
request for a ruling under Section 1.41 of the Commission's rules before manufacturing or
importing the product. A party may request a Commission determination of whether its
apparatus is an exempt display-only video monitor, may request a waiver of the apparatus
requirements for mobile DTV, and may prospectively request a purpose-based waiver.
Further, a covered entity that seeks to use an "alternate means" to comply with the apparatus
requirements may file a request pursuant to Section 1.41 of the Commission's rules for a
determination that the proposed alternate means satisfies the statutory requirements. The
Report and Order also adopts procedures for complaints alleging a violation of the apparatus
IMPACT ON SMALL BUSINESSParties, including small entities, may petition for a waiver for good cause under Section 1.3
of the Commission's rules of the emergency information rules adopted pursuant to Section
202 of the CVAA. For example, broadcast stations in smaller markets that do not have the
necessary equipment to provide a secondary audio stream can file a request for waiver of the
requirements. Many covered entities, including small entities, already provide or have the
capability to pass through secondary audio streams for emergency information to consumers.
The Report and Order adopts procedures enabling the Commission to grant exemptions to
the apparatus rules adopted pursuant to Section 203 of the CVAA, where a petitioner has
shown that compliance is not achievable or is not technically feasible. This exemption
process will allow the Commission to address the impact of the rules on individual entities,
including smaller entities, and to modify the application of the rules to accommodate
individual circumstances. Further, the Report and Order provides that parties may use
alternate means of compliance to the Section 203 apparatus rules. Individual entities,
including smaller entities, may benefit from these provisions.
INTERNET LINKSReport and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking FCC 13-45
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